My new look

Gonna wear these to work on the day before Winter Break and see if the kids notice.

In which my needs are simple

So it has been Thursday for about four days in a row now, and I’m pretty sure today is actual Thursday despite the three Thursdays that preceded it, which means that tomorrow ought to be actual Friday, meaning that when I get home from work tomorrow I can sleep.

Objectively speaking, it has been a decent week, but every day this week has featured some sort of little piece of tiring nonsense other than, like, my usual life— today was paying a ton of bills for my parents during my prep period, then returning some medical equipment, finding out only half of it was in the box, and having to go make a second run for the rest of it– and I am tired. I will make it through next week, and I actually have some plans for Winter Break that ought to be interesting if I can get to them, but right now … I wanna watch cartoons and eat ice cream.

In which I am successful and I don't like it

Objectively speaking, today was a good day. Unfortunately, I apparently have no idea how to react to good news, so my brain is melting and I’m looking around for ways to mistrust what I should be treating as evidence that I have some idea how to do my job.

My first two classes of the day are seventh graders, and they are working on volume this week. We started with cubes and rectangular solids, moved on to triangular solids, and then started working on cylinders today. Now, in some ways, all of these are fairly simple– there is a reason that “follow the formula” is literally one of my classroom rules, and I allow calculator use any time that the calculation is not the point, and in this case I don’t want an inability to multiply fluently interfering with understanding what three pieces of information you need to calculate the volume of a prism.

Cubes and rectangles and triangles went fine, but in sixteen years I’ve never had a class of math kids that didn’t struggle with cylinders. Once pi comes into the mix, and especially once not only pi is in the mix but radius squared becomes a thing, they start having trouble. They get over it, but kids always need to be monitored carefully while they’re doing cylinder volume for the first time. They screw it up. I’m used to it. It’s okay.

Nope. Both classes sailed through the assignment I gave them, and from watching the class I could tell that damn near all of them understood what they were doing. Just like they’ve sailed through basically every assignment I’ve given them this week. They just aren’t having trouble with this, in a way that I haven’t seen with my previous math classes. And how did I react, to evidence that my students have learned what I have tried to teach them, a fact that in a sane world would make a math teacher happy?

Tomorrow’s assignment is going to include a mix of shapes, because I’m paranoid that what I actually have is an age cohort that has learned to push buttons in the right order but can’t actually figure out which formula they should use if I don’t hand it directly to them. I’m still going to make sure they have access to the formulas they need; I don’t need them to have anything memorized yet– but it’s not going to be a situation where they can use the same formula every time. And we will see if they crater or if they finish this assignment with the same ease that they’ve completed everything else I’ve thrown at them this week.

“But Luther,” you may be thinking, “you used an image related to graphing equations up there! That doesn’t have anything to do with volume! Why would you choose such a misleading graphic?”

Because my 8th graders pulled the exact same shit with working on slope and graphing linear equations this week. Now, I’ve talked about teaching slope on here before— be sure to read the comments, which feature the single most entertaining fight I ever got into in my comments section in the entire history of the blog, including the utterly priceless “you’re lucky you’re Canadian” final comment– and it is something that middle school kids tend to struggle with. The whole thing is weird, really; they’re just getting used to one letter being in their math, and now there are two, and somehow there’s not one right answer but a whole bunch of right answers, and you’re telling me that this equation and this line are the same thing, somehow? Okay, boomer. Sure.

Thing is, my kids have got this this year. In a way that previous groups never have. And part of the reason is definitely that because of the way that the scope and sequence was set up this year I was able to take my time and go piece by piece with it in a way that I haven’t in previous years, but it’s still stunning how well they seem to have absorbed this particular material.

So, again, I don’t trust it a bit, and I expect to go into work tomorrow and discover that they now think you use your feet to add numbers. We shall see. One way or another, Winter Break is six teaching days away, and that means they will forget everything I’ve ever told them in six teaching days plus one minute. But for now? It’s nice to feel like I know what I’m doing.

#REVIEW: ESCAPING EXODUS, by Nicky Drayden

Nicky Drayden has written three books, and I have read all three and at least briefly discussed each of them here. Her first book, The Prey of Gods, ended up being too much for me, and I actually didn’t manage to finish it because of how completely nuts it was, although I think it’s due for a reread sometime soon regardless. Her second book, Temper, was a much more assured novel but still wasn’t quite a home run for me. The interesting thing about Drayden’s work is that she is very obviously a writer with an enormous amount of potential, and even though I didn’t finish her first book and didn’t exactly love the second she was still very much an author I was keeping an eye on and was going to continue to buy books from.

And, y’all, Escaping Exodus is the book I’ve been waiting for. I was sooooo right to keep watching Drayden; this book is the payoff, and will end up quite highly ranked on my end of the year list, which is coming in the next couple of weeks. Drayden continues with her firehose of ideas and her intensely weird fiction; this one is about a Juliet- and Juliet-esque love between an heiress to a matriarchy and someone who is effectively a manual laborer, only they’re also traveling through space in a living generation ship while they’re doing it. Throw in atypical family structures (everyone has multiple sets of parents and multiple spouses, of both genders, and blending “matrilines” is a big part of the politics of the book) and a fascinating bit at the end where we find out that there are other spaceships out there and that the colonies on those ships have evolved, and cared for their ships, very differently from the characters in this, and … man, this is really something special.

My only gripe is that the end doesn’t land quite as perfectly as I’d like; one storyline that I was quite interested in kind of gets disregarded in the last twenty pages or so, which was a bit of a disappointment, but overall this is the book I always felt like Drayden was going to write eventually and I’ve finally got. It’s just much more under control than her previous work; you got the idea in Temper to some extend and to quite a large extent in The Prey of Gods that her ideas just got away from her, and that feeling is gone from this. This novel is tight in a way her previous work hasn’t been, and you should all read it. God, 2019 has been a great year for books.

That's the post

Nine days to winter break. I can do this.